It has been a long time coming, but Sergei Zubov is on his way to the Hockey Hall of Fame. He is looked at as one of the best Russian defensemen to ever play the game. He had an amazing NHL career, spanning over 16 seasons. Throughout his career, he played for three teams, the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Dallas Stars. Throughout the course of his career, he played in 1,068 games in the NHL and had 771 points.
In international play, Zubov represented Russia in a few different tournaments. He helped the Russian team to a gold medal in 1989 and a silver medal in 1990 an the World Junior Championships. He also contributed to the Olympic gold medal in 1992. In just 38 games, he scored 18 points representing his country.
Zubov was drafted by the Rangers in the fifth round of the 1990 NHL Draft, 85th overall. He was playing for the CSKA Moscow in Russia and was the third Russian-born hockey player drafted in 1990. He continued to play for CSKA Moscow until the 1992-93 season. At the start of that season he started in the American Hockey League with the Binghamton Rangers. He had 36 points in just 30 games. He made his NHL debut for the New York Rangers on Dec. 6, 1992.
After his debut season, Zubov proved to the Rangers that he could be a valuable asset on the blue line and on the power play. In only 49 games he produced recorded 31 points, with eight goals and 23 assists. Nine of the 23 assists came on the power play, as well as three of his eight goals. This established how important moving forward the defenseman would be to the Rangers back end.
Zubov’s best season in his career was the 1993-94 season. He showed his dominance in the offensive zone by scoring 89 points that season, tallying 12 goals and 77 assists. He was a force on the power play with 40 assists coming with the extra attacker. With the combination of Zubov, Brian Leetch, Mark Messier, and Adam Graves on the power play, the Rangers were a major threat.
With the greatest conclusion to the season, Zubov and the Rangers won the 1994 Stanley Cup. He, along with Alexander Karpovtsev, Sergei Nemchinov, and Alexei Kovalev, became the first Russian-born players to have their names on the Stanley Cup. Zubov spent one more season with the Rangers. In the 1994-95 lockout-shortened season, he produced 36 points in 38 games.
Calling Dallas Home
After being traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Aug. 31, 1995, Zubov was traded to the Dallas Stars in June 1996 after just one season in Pittsburgh. This benefited him, even though his season with the Penguins was by no means lackluster. He had 66 points in 64 games. Averaging a little over a point a game wasn’t enough as he was the sixth-highest player in points for the team. Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr led the scoring with 161 and 149 points, respectively. Getting traded to the Stars was more than ideal for Zubov. His puck-moving offensive style of play wasn’t needed in Pittsburgh as they thought.
With the Stars, he fit right into the role of a puck-moving defenseman. He would call Dallas home for the remaining 12 seasons of his career. He played a total of 839 games in a Stars uniform. In those games, he scored 549 points with a plus/minus of plus-103. Zubov averaged above 45 points per season with Dallas, with his best season coming in 2005-06 when he scored 71 points.
Zubov helped the Stars win their first, and only, Stanley Cup in the 1998-99 season. He showed again that he was a reliable player to his team, scoring 51 points that season, with 13 points in 23 games in the playoff run. His NHL career ended after playing in just 10 games during the 2008-09 season. He played the 2009-10 season in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg.
Hall of Famer
Once Zubov was done playing, it took no time for him to transition into the coaching role, joining SKA as an assistant coach for the 2011-12 season. On July 20, 2015, Zubov was named assistant coach of the Russian National team. Not surprising, he focused on the defensive side of the team’s play. Not long after that, HC Sochi of the KHL named Zubov head coach prior to the 2017-18 season.
Throughout his career, Zubov showed his hockey intelligence in the offensive zone as well as the defensive zone, scoring 771 points. He led the NHL in most points scored by a Russian-born defenseman until Sergei Gonchar surpassed him in the 2012-13 season. Zubov changed the game for defensemen from Russia, and for the sport of hockey. He is certainly deserving of being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, even if it took longer than it should have.